Title: Clockwork Immortality
Label: Victor Entertainment
Release date: 12/5/18 (JP), 12/7/18 (EU, AU & NZ), 1/18/19 (UK)
Format reviewed: streaming (Spotify), digital download
I’ve been following this band since the very beginning: mid 2017, when by chance, I ran across their debut four tracks EP, simply titled “The Lovebites EP” and released by Victor Entertainment on May 24th 2017. This EP was intended to be more of a demo to get the band signed, but the label liked it so much that they had it properly mastered and released. It’s no secret – my love for speed-metal, and “The Lovebites EP”, upon my very first listen came across in a very promising fashion, inciting me to delve further into details surrounding the young newcomers, all-female metal band.
LOVEBITES, formed in Tokyo, Japan in 2016 by bassist Miho and drummer Haruna, both members of Destrose, another all-female metal band that disbanded a year earlier. Soon after, guitarist Midori and support guitarist & keyboardist Miyako (also known as Mi-Ya) were brought onboard. The new band than chose vocalist Asami to join, based on a demo that the singer has submitted. They decided on the name LOVEBITES, which derived from the song “Love Bites (So Do I)” by Halestorm. Generally speaking, the band’s music was influenced from the get go by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, where most of the members found common roots. However, each of them brought their own individual influences into the mix. Bassist Miho is a fan of Iron Maiden, Pantera, Mötley Crüe and Anthrax, and cited Steve Harris as a particular influence alongside the style of Nikki Sixx. Haruna has played drums since she was thirteen years old, and cites Helloween’s “Master of the Rings” as the first metal album she heard. Midori’s guitar playing is strongly inspired by classical and neoclassical music, as well as by speed and power metal shredders (Kiko Loureiro, amongst others). Miyako trained as a classical pianist since age three, and guitar since high school, with one of her first major influences being Yngwie Malmsteen, but was also inspired by (Italian progressive/melodic extreme metal band) Disarmonia Mundi’s Ettore Rigotti to play other instruments. Lead vocalist, Asami comes from a R&B and soul music background and she’s inspired by artist such as Alicia Keys and Aretha Franklin. All in one, a very impressive array of musical styles and artists to be inspired by.
Shortly after, and due to positive reception of their debut EP, “The Lovebites EP”, the band reentered the studio to record their debut full-length album. The twelve tracks “Awakening from Abyss” was released in Japan and North America on October 25, 2017, and two days later in the UK. The LP includes re-recordings of the four tracks from their debut EP, alongside eight new compositions. With songs such as “The Hammer Of Wrath”, “Shadowmaker”, “Liar” and the “awakened version” of “Don’t Bite The Dust” (initially on the debut EP), the debut album sparked interest in the band, outside Japan. The band played their first two shows outside their homeland, in London, UK, in November 2017.
Earlier this year, LOVEBITES performed on the Japanese leg of Warped Tour and released their second EP, “Battle Against Damnation” on June 6th 2018. Four brand new tracks, with “The Crusade” leading the way. Days later, on June 11th, at the 2018 Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards, in London, LOVEBITES were awarded “Best New Band“. They remained busy for the remaining of the summer, continuing to perform live at Wacken Open Air (W.O.A.) on August 4 (first Japanese all-female rock band to appear at the German festival), and also on the main stage at Bloodstock Open Air on August 10, 2018. Upon their return to Japan, at the end of the summer, LOVEBITES went straight into the studio to work on new material. Followed a few short months later, in November, by their first European tour that included visits to the Netherlands, Germany, France and the UK, being highly praised by legends of the speed/power realm.
LOVEBITES released their sophomore album, “Clockwork Immortality” on December 5th in Japan, two days later, on December 7th in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and in the UK on January 18, 2019. This band definitely found its sound! Debuting on a high note with “The Lovebites EP”, just over an year and a half ago (!), they took on a skyhigh trajectory, further improving and developing their songwriting chops and intensity, reaching highest levels of technicality and expression. It takes an enormous amount of talent and dedication to offer fans and all music enthusiasts an album of this caliber. A greatly dynamic body of music, superbly written, arranged and produced (more in a moment), incorporating heavy, speed and power metal, and for the first time, traces of 80s American thrash-metal. Also, for the first time, the ten tracks LP is flanked by acoustic additions to the intro (“Addicted”) and closer (“Epilogue”). The album’s compositions work very well for Asami’s vocal style/range and delivery. Her voice adding warmth to the sound’s surgical precision, and a modern flavor to the entire body of music, and more specifically to some of the tracks choruses, with the slight pop orientation. Her vocal background truly shines on the grandiosely operatic “Epilogue”. The sound is properly anchored by Haruna’s devastating precision and ravishing velocity drumming, in the best tradition of speed-metal. Her double-bass adding weight to the bottom end, in addition to Miho’s masterful, rhythmically complex and syncopated basslines. Omnipresent on all band’s releases is the synthesizer. Here, more glorious than ever, the very well incorporated synth bridges between the rhythm section and guitarists, ranging from epic moments to adding cool textures to the final mix. The two guitar players, Midori and Miyako are absolutely superb! They project really well off each other, creating absolutely stunning harmonies and outstanding riff & solo duels and interchanges. It is safe to pronounce “Clockwork Immortality” – a guitar driven album, exhibiting some of the best dual-guitar productions in years. Picking favorite tracks out, is no easy task, given that the entire album is brilliant, from start to finish. However, these are the “singles” that I would personally pick: “Pledge of the Savior”, “Rising” (actually this was the first single released by label), “Empty Daydream”, “M.D.O.”, “Journey to the Otherside”, “We the United”, and the over 7 minutes long power ballad, “Epilogue”.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, the sound production on this, and all previous LOVEBITES releases, is top-notch. The secret: both EPs and LPs were mixed by Mikko Karmila, and mastered by Mika Jussila at the Finnvox Studios in Helsinki, Finland. This legendary tandem being responsible for engineering albums from bands such as Nightwish, Children of Bodom, and Stratovarius. Much requested in the metal community, their work include more than 1300 metal albums engineered and mastered at Finnvox since 1990.
There is one other subject, or two, that I would like to bring up. Here goes. Too many times I ran into stupid and unfounded remarks about female bands not being as good as their male counterparts. Comments that are not only superficial but also very sexist, and in the vast majority of cases, untrue. One other common, negative remark was based on bands being from Japan. Wrong again! Japan continued to produce, throughout the decades some great contributors to the world of metal: Loudness, X Japan, Bow Wow, EZO, Dead End, United, Sigh, etc. With a huge wave of new metal acts this millennium, the list could go one and on. Of all countries on Earth, Japan always treated metal with utmost respect, with labels providing the same amount of support as to any other musical genre. Rock & metal became and remained mainstream in Japan, since the very early 1970s! Lastly, comparing a real metal band, LOVEBITES, with a silly gimmick, BabyMetal, is invalid! There is nothing more inaccurate. Despite the praise that they got from Rob Halford (and others), BabyMetal is nothing but a mush up of J-pop with a metal backing band. Rob might find them entertaining, but they’re just a silly musical embarrassment, all of it. Nothing metal about it … just background noise. My praise goes to, Japanese all-female bands that composes and records high quality metal, such as Aldious, Mary’s Blood, and LOVEBITES, among others. I urge any potential listener to always listen first and familiarize his/her self with any album and/or band before making unwarranted suppositions.
In the particular case of the LOVEBITES, sky’s the limit. They are proof that any artist, regardless of gender, race or nationality can climb the (steep) ladder of success. Building a catalog of two EPs and two LPs, all in less than two years, requires talent and tenacity. When in doubt, press play! 10/10 Emil/UHF
10/10 Immortal Classic
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Used by permission. © 2018 by Emil Chiru / UHF